Monday, August 20, 2012

Madness is The New Norm

I've been putting off writing this post. I'll sit down at my computer and the words don't come. Or rather too many words come all at once and then I get mad and abandon ship. Folks, the Mister and I and our ranch house are smack dab in the middle of a never-ending injustice. Now, I'm normally pretty even-keel. It takes a lot to get me riled up - unless it's an injustice. I can go from zero to sixty - from smile to spittle in a New York minute if an injustice is being committed. And we're five weeks in to the biggest injustice that we've ever had to endure. This post will be long and not for everyone but as big part of Ranch Dressing is the restoration of the ranch, it must be done. Hopefully, it will help someone else down the line who might end up in the same situation that we have.

As some of you know, a few months ago, we had a plumbing leak that ruined our hardwoods. We got that replaced and went on vacation. When we came home, we learned that a pipe had burst in our kitchen floor as well. Deep inside of a concrete subfloor where it couldn't be seen.

We contacted our insurance company and told them that we wanted to use a construction company that we'd had great recommendations about. We gave our insurance company the estimate of that company and they said that they wanted to send out one of the construction companies on their list to get another estimate for comparison. Well, their company bid in $4000. under our company and they refused to let us use our guys unless we paid the extra  - which we couldn't do. In the end, we had no choice but to use their people but did inform our insurance company that their bid was so low that we had the strong feeling that something was sketchy about them.  Our insurance agent denied that our fears were warranted.

The construction company started the job and removed our cabinets and jackhammered out the floor. With the company not having taken good enough care to cover everything in plastic, our ceilings and rock wall were now splattered with wet concrete and one of our remaining cabinets was chipped.


After some argument between workers about who was supposed to haul that concrete out of there, the leak was fixed and concrete was poured again. We thought that things were moving at a pretty good pace with just a few annoying glitches. That was when things started falling apart. When the floor guy (who from now on will be referred to as "Mr. Unskilled") leveled the concrete, he left a hump of concrete in front of the sink. that was higher than the rest of the floor. We spoke to him about this and he said that it would be fixed before the VCT tile went in. Up until this point, a good week had passed and our contractor hadn't stopped by or called to check on the job once. We had to call him every day to see what the next step was and who was coming when. And when we did talk to him, he always seemed annoyed that we didn't want to just stay at home 24/7 to see when his people would show up. Like it wasn't our place to question him or to expect him to keep an eye on his workers. They came and went as they wanted with no system of checks and balances and in essence, we'd become the contractors on the job.

Then the cabinet guys came (who from now on will be referred to as "Those Who Wouldn't Know Straight Lines if they Smacked Them In The Sides of Their Heads") and put our cabinets back in. Well, wouldn't you know that after they were done, our cabinets looked like they were straight out of a carnival fun house. The dishwasher no longer could open.

See how the dishwasher is wedged in there? 
You can see the hump of concrete there in the left hand bottom corner. 

The counter tops leaned backwards towards the wall and were a good inch lower than they were before. Doors that closed before now stayed open. We could see daylight where there was no daylight before and everything was just wonky beyond belief.

See that line across the back? That's where the top of the countertops were supposed to line up again. See that line of wooden cabinet top at the front? That's supposed to be hidden by the counter top so that the sink could go back in.

We knew that our contractor was on vacation so Mister called the company and told the secretary that the cabinets were a mess. She called the cabinet guys and they told her that they did a great job and weren't coming back. Whaaaaa? I'll be damned. And the secretary was SO rude to the Mister. We couldn't believe how ugly she was and the attitude that she gave about how we must be wrong about our cabinets being on the verge of destruction. Her guys said that they did a great job and that's all that she was going to hear.

The Mister told her that our job was stopped and nobody else was coming back into our house until the cabinets were fixed. Thanks to the power that is not getting a paycheck,  the manager of the whole company was at our house by the end of the day. One look at the cabinets and his face fell. We could tell that he came in expecting to defend his company but then he just couldn't. He apologized profusely and said that the cabinet guys would never work for him again. He said that he'd send his "best guys" out to do the job right and that from now on we'd never receive anything but the best service from his company. We were relieved to lose our jerk contractor and be on the radar of the head of the company. The next time that we talked to the secretary, she was so sweet that sugar wouldn't melt in her mouth. We could tell that the manager had told her to be nice to us. Things were finally looking up! <-- famous last words.

A crew came out and fixed the cabinets back like they were supposed to be and Mr. Unskilled came back to put leveler on the floors. The Mister kept pointing out the hardened hump of concrete to him and he kept telling the Mister that he'd sand it out before the flooring was done. After waiting ages for the company to get us floor samples that hadn't been discontinued in 2006, The Mister and I worked towards finalizing a pattern and ordered the tile.

(I'll reveal the pattern later if we ever make it out alive.)

Then came the flooring day. Mr. Unskilled and another guy showed up to lay the VCT. Things fell apart from the start. They kept getting our pattern wrong and gluing the wrong colors in the wrong spots even though we gave them a color diagram AND photos of the tiles laid down without glue to go by. In the end, The Mister stood by the doorway the entire day telling them one by one, which tile went where. And they'd forgotten to address the transitions from the kitchen doorways into other rooms. They were now just ugly jagged gaps where transition pieces should have been installed under the VCT tiles. We were less than satisfied. When they left, we noticed that the concrete hump was still under the floor and now under the tiles. When I stood at the sink, one leg was longer than the other!

It's the stuff of legend, I tell ya! My friend Enid even wrote this awesome blues song about it:

(to be sung mournfully and with a plaintive tone)
Woke up this morning
With a big hump in my kitchen floor
Oh, yeah, woke up this morning
With a big hump in my kitchen floor
Now if the Man don’t dump that hump
I ain’t gonna let him near my flo’ no mo’….

I’ve got those wacked-out crazy-installer subcontractor blues…

Mister called the contractor and asked him to come out because the job had been badly done. He also left a message on our insurance agent's phone saying that the job was going badly. Well, the contractor sent Mr. Unskilled ten minutes before he arrived and this guy began to argue loudly with the Mister that we'd had a hump of concrete in our floor BEFORE they even started on our house and that we were just trying to pawn it off on their company.  Sigh. Grumble. Sigh.

The above photo shows how much I've aged since these repairs started. I used to look at least half this young. And I'm pretty sure that my eyes weren't made of plastic grapes.

The plumber was raising his voice and kept saying, "What do you want ME to do??" while the Mister and I yelled out in unison, "YOU tell US! You're the flooring guy! Not us!" He then said that the hump would go down over time. You know, like concrete does. Of course, we're such fools! The hump will just melt away over time. Then he changed his strategy and kept rubbing his hand across the hump and acting like it wasn't there.  It was totally weird - like he thought that he could just smooth it out like one does a wrinkle in a bedspread.

Being the "I'll show you!" type, I went and stood on the hump and showed him how the leg that wasn't standing on the hump dangled over the floor. I even brought his wife into the scenario, asking him if his wife could do dishes with one foot higher than the other. The contractor showed up in his usual jerk mood and kept taking phone calls while we were trying to talk to him. Mr. Unskilled lied right and left and said that he'd offered to put nice transitions in our doorways but we told him not to. Because, that seems like what we'd do, right? Tell a floor guy NOT to put smooth transitions in our doorway? Mr. Unskilled kept going out to his van and slamming our door and acting like a four year old. Mr. Contractor never even touched the hump or looked at it. And only barely glanced at our gaping transition areas. He was taking Mr. Unskilled's side and there was nothing we could do about it.

The usually calm Mr. Kitsch began to lose his cool. 

The argument moved out to our driveway where the Contractor kept saying, "He'll come back tomorrow and fix it. THEN WILL YOU BE HAPPY??" He said that over and over - "THEN WILL YOU BE HAPPY??" like we were fools for wanting our house to be put back together right. It took all that I had not to sucker punch that guy. While we were standing there, the Contractor looked down at his phone and noted that our insurance agent had just called him. A few minutes later, the insurance agent called me and I told him that we were in the middle of arguing with HIS guys and that I'd call him back when we were done. RED FLAG ALERT: Now did anyone notice that the insurance guy called the contractor before he called us...his clients? Later in the day, when we called him back, he let it slip that the owner of the Construction company had worked at the insurance company for twenty years. There you have it. That's why they were hired even though they looked sketchy. The insurance company has ties with the Construction company! Twenty year ties! Oh Mylanta.  I think that steam started to seep out of my ears at this point. Our insurance agent kept acting like things just couldn't be as bad as we thought they were.

The next day, we were almost five weeks into the job that was supposed to take a couple of weeks. Mr. Unskilled came back alone and after the Mister discussed with him precisely how the transition pieces should go, the guy set to work.  He hammered and grunted and threw tools around. He cursed to himself loudly and beat on our transitions and slammed doors. Occasionally, the Mister had to go out and point out tiles that he'd put in backwards or that were the wrong color. Or to discuss how the transitions still weren't looking right. Now, we're not ones to usually hover over workers but with this guy, we were not taking any chances. At the seventh hour, The Mister went to check on him again. At this point, he had glue smeared across our hardwood edges and metal transition pieces were wedged in and dented. Tiles that before had been perfect were now gouged and scratched. And he hadn't even begun to address the hump of concrete under the tiles in front of the sink. Cast your wondrous eyes on some of his handiwork:

Pretty smooth, huh? 

Can you see all of the shattered edges of tile sticking up on that pasted in piece? 

The pattern in these two tiles is supposed to go in the same direction. D'oh! 
It's hard to tell here but that metal edge is bent and sticks up in the middle. 

We were on a sinking ship. The Mister told him that he was done and wanted him to leave. Mr. Unskilled began to beg for us to let him come back the next day to "fix things right". It was entirely stressful and awkward and uncomfortable. The Mister insisted that he leave and he gathered his tools and left. We vowed that he would never come into our house again and stared sadly at the mess that he'd made in our kitchen. While worrying that he'd come back and knock us in our head in our sleep. We knew that we'd already gotten the cabinet guys fired. Would he be next?

This morning, Mister called the manager of the construction company and was told that Mr. Unskilled was out getting more materials to come back to our house to finish! Even though we had to force him off of our property on Saturday! And the manager who before had been so very nice and promised us that his company would do right by us wasn't nearly as nice this time. He treated the Mister like we are too demanding and said that everything is going wrong because our pattern is too complicated. He said that his floor guys "aren't artists" and can't follow our pattern. Which had nothing to do with the hump in the floor and the jagged transitions. Not one thing. He said that he'll have to "research" to see if anyone in his company knows how to do VCT and will get back to us. He refused to come over and see what had been done and every time that the Mister tried to tell him what had happened, he kept cutting him off and wouldn't let him talk.

At this point, we're stuck between a serious rock and a hard place. The insurance company doesn't have our back, the construction company is made up of the worst bunch of nary-do-wells that we've ever met in our lives. And five weeks in, we're left with a humpy, scratched kitchen floor and are completely sick of eating microwave food and washing dishes in the bathtub.

Though admittedly, the kitties do think that washing dishes in the tub is the best thing EVER. They congregate and watch the dishes soak in the dish pan. It's the hit of the kitty cat club circuit, I hear. 

With all of the awful workers that we've had through the years, this is our worst experience EVER. We don't sleep at night and only lay there in the dark exchanging comments about what's happening. If things don't get rectified, we're  on the verge of having to go higher and get involved with complaining to the corporate offices of our insurance company AND the construction company which we know is going to be an uphill climb. We just want our kitchen back. We don't have the money to just hire our own person and tell the insurance company and construction company to go jump off of a steep cliff. And of course, it's the principal of the thing - we pay insurance fees every month so that we're supposed to be covered and well taken care of. And it's really not asking too much for workers to be skilled, polite and timely. We know these things as facts and of course, onward we'll trudge.

And that is what's going on at the ranch.

Until next time,
x's and o's,


punk in writing said...

As a journalist I say take it to the local press if it doesn't get better. Forcing you to use a shitty contractor because he has ties to the company is highly unethical. It's in their interest to keep you happy and the stories out of the news. Get documentation on everything!

Eartha Kitsch said...

Thanks! That's so true. Our local news station even has a team of reporters who only work on exposing rogue companies. They would LOVE this. If they don't get their acts together soon and make us happy, they're totally getting reported. And once its' done, we're leaving bad reviews all over the internet. We've been taking tons of pictures and writing everything down just in case.

Anonymous said...

Man Eartha I'm getting so pissed reading your post right now. Those guys are a bunch of idiots. I definatley would go up as high as I can with your insurance company and I would also call the Better Business Bureau they have helped me before they got my girlfriend's 800 back from a shady furnace cleaning company, they really help. If this doesn't work then I would go to the press. Let the BBB act first, they like to make calls and scare the crap out of businesses so let them help you. Good luck.

erin said...

oh my, i'm so sorry you have to deal with this. i'm getting all worked up just reading about it! people can be so awful. if you threatened to report them to the better business bureau do you think they would change their tune at all???

Barbara said...

Okay Doll, this is what you do. You contact the CORPORATE department of your insurance company and tell them that your agent is in cahoots with this contractor and that you expect that they will immediately send out someone ABOVE him to inspect your property. You state that YOU WILL NOT ACCEPT this contractor at your house again. Period, no discussion.

Then tell them that if they do not approve another contractor to fix the errors of an obviously nepotistic company, you will hire one and you will SUE them for the difference.

DO NOT talk to your agent again, only people above him. Contact the Contractor Boss and tell him that you have contacted the media so they can come out, and would he like to be interviewed about the wonderful work they did there? You'll schedule the news crew to be there so he can show off his companies work.

Then contact the media. Start a small claims lawsuit against your insurance company.

Take pictures of EVERYTHING.

Then give me everyone's phone number and stand back.

Barbara said...

AND ONE MORE they have permits? Has an inspector been there? If not, I would certainly contact them!

Holly Hall said...

God, that is terrible. I'm so sorry! I agree about going to the press. Those are some seriously shady dealings.

Mr. Tiny said...

YIKES!!! Unbelievable! Isn't it just easier to do it right the first time? I'll never understand people who do a terrible job on purpose and then try and talk you into believing that you are the dummy for wanting things finished properly. And REALLY?!?!?!?!, the contractor has had the floor done and redone and then wants to tell you that they don't have someone qualified to do it? Infuriating. All I can say is that if I were in this situation, I would want Barbara on my side! Go get 'em Barbara!!!! Wishing you and the ranch the very best!

Betty2Tone said...

Wow. I really have no idea what to say other then I hope you get through all this BS soon D:

Anonymous said...

All I can say is...woah nelly! I don't even know how I got on your blog (I think it was through, but when I started reading I couldn't stop. I am a retired flooring contractor and I no longer perform floor work, yet I understand your issues. I now work on homes as a pleasant retirement pasttime. So sorry that you've had such a difficult time. There are good and bad customers as well as good and bad contractors. You appear to be very good, patient customers.

Sara In AZ said...

You know I am completely feeling your pain on this....I really, really am. So sorry girl. :(

And yes, when did it become TOO much to ask people to actaully do the job right????? ugh.

cheshirecat666 said...

JEEZUS! Oh my god,I would be in the hospital for getting my ass kicked after I snapped and broke a tile over someones head. God I feel for you in the worst way. Ugh

My folks went through a mess with concentrators when they expanded our kitchen when I was a kid in the 70's,they went to court and everything. I was in like 2nd grade and didn't really understand
but I knew there was something horrible happening that Summer

Please don't killed in the night by angry workmen!!

Also,dear Blogger & Google: could you please make it even harder to read your Captcha's? I'd like to try even more times to leave a comment

clotho98 said...

Sounds like you need to get in touch with the Tennessee State Insurance Commission. You can find the numbers on their website:

Good luck.

Beta Mike said...

I can't believe the Nepotism that your Insurance Company displayed. I agree that taking this to a Better Business Bureau might result in some swift butt kicking, if nothing more than to let all of them know you're on to them.

I'm hatin' for your painin'...seriously! It just makes me wish some people weren't allowed to have a job just because they feel it's their "right" to. Where did Mr. Unskilled pretend he got his license? I watch a LOT of PBS and I'm probably half as good!

Laura said...

Eartha baby, I suggest you take the advice of the journalist above and this one too, and contact the local media. THEN take the advice of Barbara absolutely. As much as you hate to string this out longer, do NOT let any of these buffoons back on your property for any excuse they can concoct. With them you're only going to go farther and fare worse. Contact your local city inspector and complain to high heaven. Also contact the Tennessee Attorney's General's office to complain about the business practices of the contractor and the insurance agent. Most AG offices have a consumer protection bureau for just these situations. Consider whether hiring an attorney will be the cheaper route, or just cutting bait on these bozos and paying to get the job done by the company you wanted in the first place.

Georgia Peachez said...

My god, I hope you come out of this quick sack alive. Lots of good advice above.

Barbara said...

Come on Eartha, let me at 'em!!!

Pam Kueber said...

Yes - permits? Did the plumbing inspector see and sign off on the underground work?

There are numerous other excellent suggestions from folks ahead of me. Take em! Time to starting talking up the chain of command. You need to know that these jobs are done right. End of story.

Good luck. Home ownership, dontcha luv it.

Theresa Thompson said...

I feel for you! I think at one time or other we've all had terrible people to work with. I had a situation in Feb. were someone came around and asked if they could take down a tree in our yard that had been affected by the Ash Bore. I told him that I knew the tree was dead, but that I wasn't in any hurry because, let's face it in February all the trees look dead. He insisted, stating that he and his workers "could really use the money." I felt bad and after a contract was drafted he came early the next week to remove the tree. After it was all said and done he came to the door and insisted that we owed him $500 more than he'd originally said it would be. To make a long story slightly shorter I paid it because I was afraid for my life. He was very threatening. In hind sight I should have called the police.

Kimberly Lindbergs said...

Good grief! I found my way to your blog after seeing the lovely photos of your beautiful kitchen on Retro Renovation. SO you can imagine how my heart sank when I saw the recent photos of your demolished kitchen. I ended up reading through the last few months to catch up with the nightmarish situation you've found yourself in and as a new home owner myself, my heart truly goes to you! We haven't had the "pleasure" of dealing with contractors yet but at the end of the year we hope to start moving forward on some major renovations that involve plumbing problems were having with our 1954 ranch house & I'm not looking forward to it.

As another journalist, I also thought I'd add my voice to the chorus of writers suggesting you contact local media ASAP for help. Others have great advice too so hopefully you'll be able to get some new ideas on how to handle the difficult situation you're in. I'm sure it's all rather scary and *SUPER* stressful. I also wanted to add that I'm really thankful that you're documenting all the problems you've been having. Your posts will undoubtedly help a lot of other home owners who find themselves in a similar situation. I'm currently looking at my concrete floors with a cautious eye.

The Long & Winding Bobbin said...

I cannot wait to hear how this all plays out!!!
I'm so annoyed about your kitchen... can you see my anger fumes all the way over the other side of the world?? you should be able too.
I had a simlar experience with a tiler who did the worst ever job of plain white tiles on the wall behind my sink... it ended up that I had to do it myself... what a joke.
wowsers... tell everyone I say :-) Good luck!

Sparkleneely said...

Oh Eartha, I am so so sorry! Sounds like you have gotten some good advice from the kind folks above. I don't have any advice, but I'm sending good vibes and love your way. xoxo

Dana@Mid2Mod said...

I completely agree that you should take it to your local TV station and your state insurance board.

I'm sure you've taken plenty of pictures and can provide all the documentation you need.

Gina said...

OMG! Another "feeling your pain" here. These people are not qualified to do the work.

My disclaimer first: I am a biologist. I am not a contractor or construction worker. HOWEVER, I did sell flooring while in college and I have always done my own floors in my homes.

OK, with that said, I can tell you that VCT job is total sh!t (excuse the language). If they are breaking that easy (and I realize the guy was not gentle), you are going to continue to have problems. They need to relay it so edges are not breaking. I just laid VCT in my kitchen (and you do not need to be an artist by any means!) and, done careful and right, it is one of the easiest flooring types to install! This is why it was so popular in days of yore!

Egads! Please follow the above advice! You do not deserve this treatment!

Gina said...

I hope that other comment went through...I feel the same way about the captcha thing on blogger lately.

I want to add that the pattern is in the wrong direction in the photo with the green tile too (just in case you didn't see it :/)I really would count all the tiles they screwed up on. I am guessing no templates were used to do the irregulars. And, not getting them close together properly will leave it open for cleaning nightmares and damage.

I have so much 'anger' compassion for you!

I am so sorry for all of this...VCT tile is so cool!

Hello Jodi said...

Barbara said it better than I could. Don't bother with the BBB - they can help a little bit with things and mediate, but it's beyond that now.
I can say that I went back and forth between revulsion and verge of tears reading this. A friend just had a similar problem with her flooring (VCT) installers, though not as nauseating as yours. They ended up getting all their f'ed up flooring free. The biggest problem was that residential installers have NO IDEA what to do with VCT and are also stubborn and refuse to admit when they don't know something. The installed on luan (in the specs not to). The problem she has now is that the people who are good at VCT are commercial installers and her kitchen is small potatoes compared to, say, a grocery store. If they replace their f'ed up floor, they're getting Marmoleum.

Tina said...

You should definitely contact the Insurance Commissioner in your state--and notify your insurance agent that you are doing so. This kind of behavior is completely unacceptable, and the agency is always supposed to be on *your* side.
Good luck with this, I'm praying for you!

SUZY8-TRACK said...

Yes! Take it to your local news! Once they report on it, problems seem to get fixed very quickly! I cannot believe that this Insurance agent has put you in this situation! I would make sure that everyone involved is FIRED!

Rae - Say It Aint So said...

ugh!!!! i am fuming for you over here! what a shady bunch of idiots! call the news! i love the idea of asking the contractor to come out and get interviewed by the news about his great work. and yes, plaster their names all over the internet once your work gets done!

Lisa said...

What a story. I agree with the first commenter...if they don't make things right, call up channel 5! WEEKS of work AND NOTHING is like it should be? :( I'm sorry for your re-construction nightmare, and I just hate that contracting company for putting you guys through h-e-double-l. HANG! IN! THERE!

RetroRuth said...

Oh doll, I am SO SORRY for all this blasted nonsense! I third (fourth? fifth?) the comments left above, especially about going over your agent's head. I would immediately do that. Also, as soon as you have just the tiniest speck of free time, I would start looking for a new insurance company!

Tasha said...

OMG this is all BEYOND appalling!! But you've gotten a lot of great advice, and I hope you're able to work through it all. I totally agree with everyone who said to contact local media, and go up, up the chain with your insurance company! No scumbags like that should be allowed to come out on top. You'll triumph!

sherree said...

Gosh I am so sorry :-(
My Hubby and I went through a little of what you are experiencing when we moved 18 months ago.
We just laid in bed at night and re-hashed all the awful events of the day. (I did not have a blog then or would have blown off steam that way).
Hopefully soon it will be just a memory for you.
Keep track of everything (even time for those using cell phones) and report them ALL. You are right, this was a HUGE injustice.
I have to smile though when I read your posts; you are able to keep your sense of humor :-)

Kitsch and Curious said...

Oh my word, I can feel your pain! So sorry you've had to go all through this. Here's hoping the whole thing gets sorted soon. Sending you good thoughts!

Anonymous said...

Sounds like a great story for Mike Holmes! Have you heard of Holmes on Homes? He's the guy you need, and they may need more stories for the show. You aught to try to contact them!

Pat said...

I totally agree with Barbara the corporate office of your insurance company. If you can't find a number, keep looking, try to figure out what the President's number is (I recently figured out a corporate number for a bad situation using LinkedIn - of course, they don't just put the President's # on the interweb, ha) and call and tell them there is collusion going on. You'll probably talk to a secretary, but believe me, they are the ones who actually follow thru with these things. Using the term collusion gets them going; threatening local tv reporting also. Write down the name, date & time of everyone you talk to. It's time to go all out. Don't wait to see if they do it right; you are a client of the insurance company and their agent is in collusion. The state insurance commissioner should know also. I also think now is the time to name the company here.
Yikes. Who raised these people?

Editor said...

First contact Mike Holmes if you can. What have you got to lose.

All that aside, wow, I can honestly say that I have had only one bad experience with an alarm installer--let it suffice to say I fired him halfway into the job because he ignored where we wanted the keypads--though he agreed in advance--placing them on walls where furniture was going, took his time doing the job, and then showed up all stoned one day. That was it. Didn't want THAT guy doing my security install. Best part was when he insisted only my "husband" could fire him.

That being said, this was a romp in the park compared to what you have experienced. My condolences and I hope you can find a way to get it all right.


Nessa said...

OH wowwww... I wanted to cry in frustration for you! How horrible! You just can't trust anybody to do a good job anymore these days. :-|